Judy McGregor: Gender equality is still eluding us

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These gender gap problems are issues that we can do something about. Photo / iStock
These gender gap problems are issues that we can do something about. Photo / iStock

Today, International Women's Day, is a wonderful day to celebrate being a woman. We're better educated, we can choose our own careers and we can get paid parental leave.

We live in a lucky country, without war and conflict. We have good friends and most of us have an adequate standard of living, enough food and good health.

But New Zealand is slipping as one of the best countries in the world for women to live in. We've dropped to 10th in the Global Gender Gap report of more than 140 countries. The report measures women's pay, health, education and representation.

Why are we falling behind? There are at least four major worries: the lack of equal pay; entrenched inequalities for Maori and Pacific women; the shocking rates of violence against women; and women's lack of representation and status in politics, business and the community.

All of these affect us and our families. They are all issues that we can do something about.

They are all issues the Government should do something about.

We pay thousands of women caring for older people the minimum wage for a job that many of us could not do. The overall gender pay gap between men and women is 14 per cent and has not shifted for years.

The working group on pay equity principles that is due to report this month must properly address equal pay and pay equity. If it doesn't, female carers will go back to court to fight for equal pay.

The rates of violence against women in New Zealand are appalling and we should be ashamed of them.

Women working in this area have constantly argued for more money, greater protections and co-ordinated responses.

While Maori form 15 per cent of our population, a staggering 65 per cent of women in prisons are Maori. This is a shameful statistic.

The United Nations repeatedly asks New Zealand to do something about it.

Only about 30 per cent of parliamentarians are women, less than 20 per cent of the directors on the boards of top 100 companies are, and few women are chief executives and local government representatives.

This means women's voices are not heard at the top tables in the country.

I am proud to be a New Zealand woman today. But I would be much prouder if we took gender equality seriously. We can't rely forever on being the first nation to grant women the vote, 123 years ago.

What are we doing for women in 2016? How will our daughters and grand-daughters judge us? I hope they will say that we didn't give up on the fight.

Professor Judy McGregor is head of AUT's school of social sciences and public policy.

Where to get help:

If it is an emergency and you or someone you know is at risk, call 111.
Women's Refuge: 0800 733 843
Victim Support: 0800 842 846
Lifeline: (09) 522 2999
Family Violence Info Line: 0800 456 450

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- NZ Herald

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